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Hermes Messenger God God of Boundaries
Atlas, who wears on back of bronze the ancient Abode of the gods in heaven, had a daughter Whose name was Maia, born of a goddess:She lay with Zeus, and bore me, Hermes,Servant of the immortals.
Hermes is a trickster: on his first day born, he steals Apollo’s cattle, then creates the lyre. He associates with mortals and immortals. On occasion he gives help or profit to a few, but for the most part he continually deceives humans by the horde in the darkness of night. Homeric Hymn to Hermes Hermes on a child’s bowl
In the Olympian family, Hermes is a youthful god, junior to Apollo. • Characteristic of his iconography: • beardless • broad-brimmed hat and traveling cloak • cadeuceus • talaria (not seen here) • Roman name: Mercury
His traveling clothes show him in his role as the messenger of the gods. Here he fastens on the talaria, a special symbol of that role. His dress as a traveler also shows that he is a liminal figure. Journeys are potentially dangerous; Hermes is a symbol of the dangers but also a source of comfort to the traveler.
God of merchants. • God of thieves. • God of flocks (esp. sheep and goats) in Hesiod. • Associated with the education of young men. • Known as Hermes Psychopompos, he leads the souls of the dead down into the underworld. • Hermes oversees all kinds of transitions between our world and that other world, as well as all kinds of complex human interactions.
Hermes shows up in many vital interactions between humans and gods. Here he oversees Zeus giving birth to Dionysus. Here he brings the infant Dionysus to Silenus to raise
Here he oversees the punishment of Ixion, who tried to rape Hera Here he visits a hero (Odysseus) to bring him a welcome message from the gods
He brings the goddesses to Paris in the contest that starts the Trojan war Here you can just glimpse him as a soul passes over to the underworld.
While a lot of Classical art focuses on Hermes as an attractive youth, Hermes commonly appeared in other guises. Herms were a common feature of Greek houses, in the “mailbox position,” to serve an apotropaic function and invite in good luck. Here a sculptor carves a Herm.
Here’s a herm. All gods could be carved in this “pillar” fashion, but Hermes was the most common Notice Hermes is portrayed as a mature man. There is no real consistency about his characteristic age in portrayals. Here he differs from Artemis, Apollo, Athena, Ares, Aphrodite, and Hephaestus.
City Savior In Tanagra, Hermes saved the city from a plague by carrying a ram around the city on his shoulders. The ritual is repeated yearly by a handsome young man carrying a lamb. Hermes was also a battle savior at Tanagra – he led the young men into battle and fought with a strigil.
In the Roman world, Mercury became more important as a god of trade, since trade and wage-earning were becoming more central to the economy. Roman Mercury
So hail to you, son of Zeus and Maia . . . guide and giver of grace and other things. finis
Hermes and Artemis are both liminal deities. Artemis in the wild, Hermes on the road. What are the similarities and differences between the wild and the road as liminal territories?
What makes virginity a powerful state/idea? Consider (some or all): • Athena • Artemis • Hestia • A Greek girl before marriage • A woman in our culture • other cultures you are familiar with